Am I Entitled to My Spouse's Social Security in Divorce?

Social Security retirement benefits were designed to help support people and their families after they decided to cut back their work hours or stop working entirely. Social Security Retirement Insurance allows spouses to receive retirement benefits based on their spouse’s earnings, as well – even if they themselves have never worked. 

But what happens if you’re divorced from a spouse who was the primary wage earner while you were married? As an ex-spouse, are you still eligible for retirement benefits based on your ex’s work history?

Can I get Social Security payments on my ex-spouse’s record?

As a divorced spouse, your rights to your ex’s Social Security benefits are similar to that of a current spouse, with a few exceptions. You can still collect monthly benefits equal to up to one-half of your former spouse’s monthly benefit providing you meet certain requirements:

  • Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement benefits
  • You and your ex were married for 10 years or more
  • You have not remarried
  • The benefits based on your ex’s work record are more than those you would receive based on your work record

The Social Security Administration determines your eligibility and benefits rights, so they are entirely outside your divorce proceedings. You can apply for divorced spouse benefits even if you are receiving alimony. Furthermore, your ex will never even know you are receiving benefits based on their income. 

Will my ex lose money if I claim these benefits?

Applying for Social Security divorced-spouse retirement benefits based on your ex’s work record will not affect their benefits. They will still get the full retirement benefits they are entitled to.

Can I receive payments on my ex’s record in addition to my own Social Security money?

If you’re eligible for Social Security retirement benefits based on your work record, Social Security pays that amount first. However, if your divorced spouse benefit is higher, you will get the greater amount. But Social Security will not pay you for both.

You will receive the higher of the benefits: those based on your own employment record or those based on your ex’s work record. 

What else do I need to know?

To collect Social Security retirement benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work record, there are some important things you should be aware of:

  • The earliest you can apply for Social Security is three months before you turn 62. If you wait until your full retirement age, you will collect 50% of your ex’s monthly payment. If you apply for benefits earlier than your full eligibility age, you will get a smaller amount in monthly payments. 
  • You don’t need your ex’s Social Security number to apply for divorced spouse benefits. 
  • You can receive benefits based on your ex’s income even if your former spouse has remarried. 
  • You can start collecting retirement benefits based on your work record and later switch to benefits based on your ex’s work record. 
  • If your ex-spouse is not yet receiving their own retirement benefits, you can still collect your divorced spousal benefits. However, you must have been divorced for at least two years. 
  • If your former spouse is now deceased, you may be eligible to receive their full retirement benefits instead of only half. 
  • If your ex is now deceased, you may be eligible for survivor’s benefits even if you have remarried. 
  • If you are raising minor children belonging to your ex-spouse, they may also be entitled to receive Social Security benefits.
  • During and after your divorce, your financial well-being is a primary concern. It’s essential to understand all your rights and options so you make the best decisions possible. 

At Hello Divorce, we take a holistic view of divorce. Not only do we offer a menu of online divorce plans, but we also offer an array of services, including divorce financial planning services. Schedule a free 15-minute informational call to see how we can help.


Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.